Dick Baxter, a successful three-sport coach at Peoria Manual High School, was responsible for originating the Illinois State High School Baseball Tournament and made Peoria the home of that tournament for the first 40 years of its existence.
He coached football, basketball, and baseball at Manual in an era when many coaches handled that tremendous load as a matter of course. Baxter was a winner in all three sports as his teams became powers.
He was Manual's premier coach from 1935 through the 1944 season, and it was in 1940 that he came up with a plan for a statewide prep baseball tournament.
The first tournament was put together solely by Baxter, although the Illinois High School Association gave its blessing. That first one drew 64 entrants and eight sectional winners came to Peoria to play for the state title. The finalists were Pekin, Fairbury, Princeville, Bloomington, Champaign, Bluffs, Belleville and Streator. Belleville defeated Champaign to win the first state title.
The IHSA took over the tournament the next year. It became a fixture on the Peoria sports scene until it was moved to Springfield for the 1980 tournament after that city refurbished its ballpark.